A deal announced Sunday between Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich, aimed at stopping Donald Trump from securing the GOP nomination before the party’s convention in July, could make New Mexico’s upcoming primary more important.
Kasich agreed to leave the critical May 3 Indiana primary to Cruz. In exchange, Cruz agreed to not compete in Oregon, whose primary is May 17, and New Mexico, whose primary is June 7.
“To ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November, our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico,” said Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe.
Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said Kasich’s campaign “will focus our time and resources in New Mexico and Oregon, both areas that are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well.”
Both campaigns called on third-party groups to follow their lead.
The deal perhaps says more about the importance of Indiana to efforts to stop Trump than it says anything about New Mexico or Oregon. Cruz had a chance of winning New Mexico, but Indiana’s contest is sooner and will award more delegates.
Cruz was essentially tied with Trump in the only publicly released poll of New Mexico’s GOP primary — an Albuquerque Journal poll from February that had Cruz at 25 percent to Trump’s 24 percent. Kasich was last, a 4 percent, in what at the time was a six-person race.
Analysts believe Trump will be close to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to lock up the nomination before the GOP convention in Cleveland. If he falls short, delegates will select the party’s nominee at the convention. A contested convention is the only potential path to victory left for both Cruz and Kasich.
Cruz had a better chance than Kasich of stopping Trump in Indiana. From the New York Times:
“A Fox News survey released last week showed Mr. Trump taking 41 percent of the vote while Mr. Cruz received 33 percent and Mr. Kasich 16 percent. But without Mr. Kasich in the race, Mr. Trump’s lead narrowed to two points.”
Indiana will award 57 delegates. New Mexico and Oregon combined will award 52. The deal between Cruz and Kasich doesn’t apply to any other remaining state contests.
New Mexico has seen little presidential primary action to date. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton held a private fundraiser in Albuquerque in June. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, held another New Mexico fundraiser for her campaign in January. Grassroots groups have organized in Las Cruces and elsewhere in support of Clinton’s primary opponent, Democrat Bernie Sanders.
The GOP candidates’ deal raises the possibility of a Kasich visit to New Mexico. And if Kasich is able to compete here, the Trump campaign may also need a presence in the state.
First, Kasich will need to show he can compete here. Whether he can remains to be seen.
Trump slammed the deal between his opponents, calling the political system in the United States “totally rigged,” according to Politico. “It is sad that two grown politicians have to collude against one person who has only been a politician for ten months in order to try and stop that person from getting the Republican nomination,” Trump was quoted as saying.
Trump said Cruz’s campaign is in a “free fall” after losing the New York primary badly. And he pointed out that Kasich has won only one of 41 state contests that has been held thus far.